In the Spotlight
By Sereniti James
19th July 2022
What is Law ?
1.the system of rules which a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and which it may enforce by the imposition of penalties.
2.a rule defining correct procedure or behaviour in a sport.”
What is the Bible ?
“The Bible is the holy scripture of the Christian religion, purporting to tell the history of the Earth from its earliest creation to the spread of Christianity in the first century A.D. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament have undergone changes over the centuries, including the the publication of the King James Bible in 1611 and the addition of several books that were discovered later.”
The definition of the Bible can’t be put into a set of words because the Bible has a different meaning to everyone who reads it and adheres to it. Some of those who believe in it will follow it as the Law. But is it the Law ? Is it even Law ?
It is pointless arguing about this question because it is relative to each person. Those who believe it to be Law may find themselves become lawless if not for the Bible. In other words you are so unruly that you can’t be tamed unless and if not for the Bible. This is a very serious matter.
The more deviant you are the more laws you will need to harness your deviant thinking and behaviour and your deviant nature. I believe that irrespective of the Bible being in existence, one must be able to tether one’s thoughts words and deeds from recklessness. It would be a very sad day when all those who do not believe in the Bible resorted to lawlessness, purely because they are not adherents of the Bible.
Therefore, the Law as in the Law of the land must be separated from the edicts of religion. Not only that, people must be guided by their intelligence to be ethically and morally sound individuals. Common sense therefore is what must guide us in every issue. Now you may wonder if I have read Common Sense by Thomas Paine. I haven’t. It’s in my bucket list.
Having said that, I like to think of myself as being a sensible person. The word Sensible is defined as such in the Internet dictionary:
1.done or chosen in accordance with wisdom or prudence; likely to be of benefit.
2.(of an object) practical and functional rather than decorative.
My highest priority being that one must be lawful or ethical and moral irrespective of the Bible or any other religious or other document calling upon you to do so. That being, your not needing a set of beliefs to harness your inner thoughts and feelings. This is who a sensible man or woman is supposed to be.
All of this goes to mean that each one of us has a varying degree of what we believe to be right and wrong. This being morality.
Ethicality goes beyond morality. To be ethical you have to be aware of the greater good that pervades the world. Irrespective of being ethical, one can be moral by adhering to religious edicts one has learned or by observing the laws pertaining to the land. This goes to say that those who are ethical will also be moral. But those who are moral may not necessarily be ethical.
“Aristotle’s ethics, or study of character, is built around the premise that people should achieve an excellent character (a virtuous character, “ethikē aretē” in Greek) as a pre-condition for attaining happiness or well-being (eudaimonia).” – Wikipedia
In other words:
“What we need, in order to live well, is a proper appreciation of the way in which such goods as friendship, pleasure, virtue, honor and wealth fit together as a whole. In order to apply that general understanding to particular cases, we must acquire, through proper upbringing and habits, the ability to see, on each occasion, which course of action is best supported by reasons. Therefore practical wisdom, as he conceives it, cannot be acquired solely by learning general rules. We must also acquire, through practice, those deliberative, emotional, and social skills that enable us to put our general understanding of well-being into practice in ways that are suitable to each occasion.” – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
One abides by laws only because one has to. But one is ethical because one chooses to do so. If you ask me if the Bible is ethical or moral ? I would say it is both. In the Ten Commandments it lays down ten ways in which one must behave and abide by, failing which you perish.
However, Scripture lays down the story of Man with God Almighty as the central figure. God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. God created Man in his image and he created all other beings for the benefit of Man. According to the Bible the entire world revolves around Man.
It is up to Man to decide if he wants to be ethical or not. But if one did not want to perish and wanted to live a virtuous life, one would have to abide by the Ten Commandments to begin with. Ipso facto, by that very fact, if someone did not belong to the community that believed in the Bible, one would be considered a heathen or a sinner, a non-believer, to put it mildly.
Harsh words indeed. Sinner. Heathen. The supremacy of a Christian is therefore taken for granted by the Christian majority. Everyone else becomes a pariah. Then one might ask – Doesn’t thinking of those who don’t believe in what you believe, as sinners or heathen, by itself make it an act of Sin ?
Doesn’t considering yourself as being superior to all other beings purely by the fact that you believe in the Bible, make you a lesser being ? I would like to think so. This is true even of Scripture. According to Chanticleer in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, Pride supersedes a fall !!! So too is that which the Bible preaches.
I will not be quoting Scripture in this essay, as what I have learned is that: “The Devil quotes Scripture to serve his purpose”. There then is the reason why we must act virtuously irrespective of Scripture having said so or not.
To get back to the cardinal Sin of Pride, the Christian finds himself in a double bind when he considers himself a superior individual to all other beings simply because he follows the Bible and he considers the Bible to be ultimate Law.
Why then do we have a document called a Constitution ? The U. S. Constitution, (I’m not citing any document elaborating on this most august document, which is to be read only in the original as I can’t otherwise vouch for it’s authenticity. So I desist.) exists explicitly because the Bible is not Law. The Bible is a book of spiritual denouement. It sets out how one must exist if one were to avoid Sin and become a virtuous individual. This is abjectly different to abiding by the Law so as not to infringe upon another’s freedoms and privacies.
From this we may surmise that while the Bible is spiritual law, the Constitution is political law. But the Founders who created the Constitution did also lay down their thoughts on how wisely one must behave in order live a happy life, as given in the Pursuit of Happiness. The Founders believed that human beings are easily corruptible and therefore needed tetherance.
So while the Bible lays down how an individual must act to protect the individual’s life, the Law as in the Law of the land sets down rules you must observe in order to live as a civic minded person who is an asset to society. In other words a law abiding citizen. This being an individual who is mindful of where one’s freedoms end, and where another’s begin. An individual who is aware of Rights.
We are NOT given the Law in parables in story form as does the Bible. The Law is written as coming down to us from Roman Dutch Law, in precise cases and clauses. It is laid down succinctly with no room left for as many interpretations as there are individual people in existence. The Law is the same for all is what we have come to believe.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, [under One God], that they are endowed by their Creator, …” *
Unless of course the Law is corrupted and abused to be used against the very People and the very Law itself that seeks to protect them. When this happens, as in when the Law is abused, the society of which becomes a lawless land fraught with criminals and miscreants. It is to prevent this kind of society from becoming prevalent that we have the Law of the land governing the People of that Land. This is why and how a Constitution came into existence. Necessity being the mother of all invention.
This is also why we must keep religion separate from the state, even though we must have both religion and the state performing closely together. They must be parallel spheres that perform a symbiotic need. One can’t be held devoid of the other. Neither should one cross the path of the other.
Suffice it to say that Buddhism teaches its adherents to practice skillful thinking. What is meant by this is that if one thinks and acts skillfully in every turn in life, one will never go wrong. Buddhism being a philosophy does not lay down laws as to how one must behave.
On the other end of the spectrum we get Islam. Islam is governed by Sharia Law. Therefore it is not a religion, but a compendium of laws meted out to control individuals in society. Possibly, at the time whan Islam came into being, there were very vile and uncontrollable persons in existence who needed to be properly harnessed and tethered. They possibly had to be tethered with the knowledge of the wrath of an angry God lording over them to bring them to justice.
As, the First Testament, which the Muslims practice, in the form of the Quran, believes in an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” form of dispensing Justice. Whereas the Second Testament as practised by Christians, believes in “turning the other cheek.”
We then come to the all important meaning of Justice. While the Bible is divine justice, the Constitution is earthly justice as in the mundane. The preamble to the United States Constitution reads as such:
“The Constitution of the United States
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
However, the American Constitution is Law as in which is handed down by God. The American Constitution speaks of unalienable rights by natural law and the rule of law as against man made laws and the rule of man.. This is why it is not necessary for an American to be governed by two documents as in the Bible and the Constitution, in the public domain. The latter imbeds and invokes God in the manner in which it is dispensed.
“Oath Of Office.
In the Federal Government, in order for an official to take office, he or she must first take the oath of office; this is also known as a swearing-in ceremony. The official reciting the oath swears an allegiance to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution only specifies an oath of office for the President; however, Article VI of the Constitution states that other officials, including members of Congress, “shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation to support this Constitution”.
The following includes oath information for high ranking officials from each of the three branches of Government…” – Ben’s Guide
*”We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, [under One God], that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness – That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation in such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect Safety and Happiness, Prudence, indeed, will dictate …” – The Declaration of Independence